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A well-known saying attributed to Benjamin Franklin states, “Failing to plan is planning to fail.” Anyone who has worked in a maintenance organization that runs from one crisis to the next knows this statement is intrinsically true. Without thoughtful preparation, many maintenance tasks become temporary measures instead of long-term repairs. Rather than improve the performance of equipment over time, they actually end up accelerating the next failure.
This may all seem like common sense for a maintenance professional, but to change an organization’s culture requires the buy-in of senior management. How do you sell the idea of planning and scheduling to the decision makers in your company?
The following five steps will help you convince your organization’s management to implement planning and scheduling for maintenance. They are based on the massive return on investment (ROI) that can be achieved from increased productivity.
One of the signs of a lack of maintenance planning is low productivity. Without planning and scheduling, 20 to 30 percent is typical for maintenance productivity across a wide variety of industries. This is frustrating for both technicians and maintenance managers, and it has a direct impact on the bottom line. Having low productivity means the company is paying for time that is not being used effectively.
Studies and statistics may sound impressive, but you likely will need hard data to convince the decision makers in your organization about the productivity problem. Without going through the pain of extensive time and motion studies, you can still obtain a simple measure of productive time in your maintenance department. A good tool for establishing your productivity is the wrench-time calculator. This spreadsheet provides the fields for you to fill in by talking with supervisors and maintenance technicians and analyzing a normal daily routine. Plug these inputs into the wrench-time calculator and let it calculate the productivity for you. Once you have that number, you can present hard evidence to your team about the cost of poor productivity and the potential savings from planning and scheduling.
While actual productivity of 30 percent is a problem, effective planning and scheduling can help raise that number to 45 percent. This is an average productivity value for an organization that uses a good work management system, but there is room for even more improvement to achieve world-class performance.
It will be important to demonstrate to decision makers how planning and scheduling can raise the productivity levels in your organization. Implementing a new work process requires people to take on new roles, such as that of a planner or scheduler, but this does not mean you need to employ more people. Developing a system for planning and scheduling enables everyone to be more efficient and spend more time doing productive work.
One of the keys to productivity improvement is moving away from breakdown emergencies to work on jobs that are planned in advance. The more productive time you have available, the more preventive maintenance tasks you can complete, thus limiting the number of equipment failures you must deal with in an emergency. Chances are that management will jump on board when they see the potential of improved productivity, but your case will be even more compelling when you calculate the impact on the bottom line.
Decision makers need to see the financial impact of changes to the business. They work in terms of ROI, which shows the direct financial benefit. The good news is that productivity improvements can be easily converted to dollar amounts.
Assuming a current productivity of 30 percent without planning and scheduling, a reasonable goal would be to achieve 45 percent. World-class performance is actually about 55 percent, so even after you have implemented planning and scheduling, there will still be room for improvement.
The following example can be used as the basis for your own calculations. Our sample organization has 20 technicians working five 10-hour shifts per week. The calculation is based on 48 workweeks in the year. In a typical week, the total number of productive hours for the entire crew will be:
Productive hours = 20 x 10 x 5 x 30 percent = 300 hours
Deploying a planning and scheduling system will require taking some technicians off the tools and allowing them to play a different role. Their task will be to ensure jobs are well-prepared, all tools and spares are available, and that there are no roadblocks to executing the maintenance tasks.
Industry benchmarks show a typical ratio of planners to technicians is 1-to-20 or 1-to-30. In other words, an experienced planner should be able to plan work for between 20 to 30 technicians. In the example above with 20 technicians, we will use one as a planner and one as a scheduler, leaving 18 technicians for maintenance tasks. At our new productivity of 45 percent, let’s see how many productive hours that gives us:
Productive hours = 18 x 10 x 5 x 45 percent = 405 hours
This is a massive 35 percent improvement in productive maintenance manhours per week. If you wanted the same improvement without implementing planning and scheduling, you would need to employ an additional seven technicians.
As a last step, you can convert these extra manhours into dollar amounts using a standard rate of $100 per hour. In our midsized company with only 20 technicians, the value to the business is more than $500,000 per year. The larger the business, the higher these numbers become.
Of course, to implement a new planning and scheduling system in any organization will take time and involve some costs. Decision makers will want to see these costs and how the project will look in terms of ROI.
At this stage, it is advisable to develop a project budget for the transition to a formal planning and scheduling process. Among the elements to keep in mind include the manhours required to define and develop the new systems, adjustments to your computerized maintenance management system (CMMS), training for staff, and project management.
Once you have a monetary estimate for the costs of implementing the project, you can use the benefits already calculated to work out an ROI. Most planning and scheduling projects have a payback of within 12 months of their execution.
Don’t assume just because you have done all the calculations and the business case is undeniable that you won’t need to do much persuading. The way you present your proposal and justification to the decision makers in your organization will be critical to get their buy-in.
Turn the work you have done so far into a compelling presentation. Use graphs to highlight the dramatic changes in productivity and the money value that planning and scheduling can add to the bottom line. Your passion and enthusiasm will also be important. Try to convey the message that this is a permanent change to the way you perform maintenance. It is a change in culture, not just a short-term program that disappears when the next fad comes along.
For the last 20 years, Erik Hupje has worked around the world as an asset management engineer, specializing in maintenance and reliability in the upstream oil and gas industry. He is the founder of R2 Reliability and developed the Road to Reliability framework for effective preventive maintenance engineering.